Pediatric nurses extend medical care to the most vulnerable of patients: children. Since children are still growing and often too young to understand what is happening to them, their needs are distinct from adult patients'. As one professional organization puts it, "children are not just mini adults: their bodies and minds work in different ways." Pediatric nurses need special training to care for these special patients.
There are a few basic paths to a pediatric nursing career, all of which begin with postsecondary education and culminate in a registered nursing diploma.
BSNPediatric nurses may take some specialized courses in child physiology, but gain most of their training on the job. A pediatric nursing internship of three months to a year prepares nurses for the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) exam. Continuing education courses and a pediatric nurse practitioner master degree are available for career advancement.
Bachelor degrees in Nursing generally take four years to complete. The BSN emphasizes communication, leadership, and critical thinking. These programs offer broader career opportunities than the ADN or diploma. A bachelor degree is a requirement for nurses interested in administrative positions, research, consulting, teaching, or specialty nursing. Professional nursing specialties include clinical nursing, nurse anesthetist, nurse-midwife, and nurse practitioner positions.
RNs with an ADN or diploma may upgrade their qualifications through an accelerated RN-to-BSN program. This path offers a financial advantage, since nurses may start working and fund the BSN through tuition reimbursement programs.
Associate degrees in nursing take two to three years to complete. These programs offer a more abbreviated theoretical education than the bachelor degree, focusing instead on technical skills.
Nursing diploma programs are becoming less common, with only about 70 programs nationwide. These programs focus on building technical skills and clinical experience in a hospital or other inpatient facility.
All of these programs qualify graduates for the NCLEX-RN exam, which confers RN licensure.
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